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Trump, Egypt Agree to Postpone UN Vote on Israeli Settlements 'Indefinitely'

  • VOA News

FILE - An Israeli flag is seen near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

FILE - An Israeli flag is seen near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Egypt asked the United Nations to “indefinitely” postpone a vote on a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building in Palestinian territories after Egypt’s president received a phone call from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

A statement Friday from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said, “The two leaders agreed on the importance of giving the new administration a chance to deal comprehensively with all the aspects of the Palestinian cause to achieve a comprehensive settlement.”

The U.N. Security Council had scheduled a meeting Thursday to vote on the resolution, which calls for the cessation of all settlement building in Palestinian territory, calling it "essential for salvaging the two-state solution," which would see Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace.

The resolution also says the existing settlements have “no legal validity” and are “a flagrant violation” of international law.

Israel was engaged in an intense lobbying effort against the measure.

Egypt, the sponsor of the resolution, is one of 10 non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

It is rare, if not unprecedented, for a U.S. president-elect to insert himself into real-time diplomatic efforts.

Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had urged the Obama administration to veto the U.N. resolution that would halt the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations," a statement released by the transition team Thursday and posted on Donald Trump's official Facebook account read. "This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis."

The U.S. vetoed a similar U.N. resolution in 2011, but multiple sources told NBC news that the U.S. had planned to abstain from Thursday vote before it was postponed.

The State Department refused to comment on which way they would have voted following the announcement that the vote had been postponed.

“I am not going to preview, nor would we preview our views or our votes in advance of Security Council resolutions being voted on," State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "What we continued to try to do is work towards seeing a viable two-state solution realized...in that regard, I think we were interested to see how the debate and discussion would unfold and I think I'd leave it at that."

Early in his presidency, Obama warned that Israel's settlements in the Palestinian territories were undermining efforts toward peace in the region. "It is time for these settlements to stop," he said.

Obama has taken more of a hard-line approach with Israel than his predecessors, settlement construction over the past eight years actually exceeded the amount of building that took place during the Bush years, according to the Associated Press.

Trump has indicated he could break from U.S. precedent and strongly back the settlement construction, this month nominating David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who is a strong advocate for Israeli settlements, as the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Friedman has expressed his opposition to a key tenet of U.S. policy in the region: the two-state solution of an Israeli and Palestinian state living peacefully side by side. He has also compared liberal Jews in the U.S. who oppose settlement construction and other policies to the Jews who helped the Nazis during World War II.

In a statement acknowledging his nomination, Friedman said he looked forward to doing his job "from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem." The U.S. embassy is in Tel Aviv, and although previous presidents have promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, they failed to follow through on the pledge.

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